IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
I'm up again because I have dreamed
my father alive, rustling rubber sheets
to get my attention and lying there
in the spare room as he did at the end
surrounded by the stares of mounted
game—elk, deer and bobcat hung
on the walls around the foldout couch.
But he was young and thin in my dream,
the tattoos that shamed him flashing on
sculpted biceps, his hair that had turned
white too soon gone back to brown.
And as usual in the dream, he refused
to speak to me, his mouth moving,
teeth gnashing some phantom-sound
that would not come out as words.
In this sleepless house is the ticking
sound I call settling to steady my mind.
The dark outside is taking its time
lifting its stain from the skin of snow
by slow degrees. Do I call him forth
out of ether? Ask him why he can't
talk back? I fill another kettle, place it
on the flames. And listen. And wait.
James Crews' work has appeared in Ploughshares, Raleigh Review, Crab Orchard Review and The New Republic, among other journals, and he is a regular contributor to The (London) Times Literary Supplement. His first collection of poetry, The Book of What Stays, won the 2010 Prairie Schooner Book Prize and received a Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award. He lives on an organic farm with his partner in Shaftsbury, Vermont and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Eastern Oregon University.